April 26, 2004

Star Power

It seems like most of the columnists, radio talk show hosts, and a majority of "Joe Fan" types are OK with the Kellen Winslow Jr. selection by the Browns on Saturday. Early reports from disinterested observers like John Clayton at ESPN.com had the Browns listed among the Day One "losers", arguing that they had too many holes to fill to justify coming out of the first three rounds with only two bodies. I was a bit shocked when I got home that evening and found out that the price to move up one spot had been our second round pick, but the allure of Winslow's star power was apparently too great to resist for a team that possessed so little of it going into the draft.

It was obvious three months ago that Winslow was a likely pick, and I haven't grown to feel any warmer or fuzzier about the kid than I did back then. But neither have I wavered in my belief that he is truly a special talent. The catch he made in the national championship game, plucking the ball out of the air over Will Allen, still amazes me. I think the Browns' utter lack of "touchdown makers" demanded they try to land a player that can make a difference NOW. I hope I can grow to like him, the longer he wears the orange helmet. And I'm sure I won't be the first or the last to make the point that as long as the Browns are using those second round picks to draft players like Chaun Thompson, it's hard to criticize them for giving up the pick to land a talent like Winslow. A cynic's view, to be sure, but it's their job to prove me wrong.

I like the pick of Sean Jones with the recouped second round pick. Safety has been a crying need ever since the team was reconstituted in 1999. The fact that he was first team all-SEC is good enough for me, but he also made first team Coaches All-American. That means more to me as a measure of how good a football player a guy is than does his shuttle time at the combine.

I wonder what the Vegas odds would have been that the Browns would go through the first five rounds of the draft without selecting an offensive lineman. (No, tight ends don't count.) I know I might have bet the ranch against it. But a John Clayton article I saw today made me feel a bit better about the choice Davis and Co. made to avoid "reaching" just for appearances' sake. Here's an excerpt:

For months, everyone was hearing how this NFL draft was heavy on receivers and thin on offensive linemen. The scouts were right on, and that became even more apparent during the second day of the NFL draft Sunday.

Only 12 offensive linemen were selected Saturday in the first three rounds. But while teams had a chance to reflect on their scouting boards Saturday night, they awoke Sunday morning and still ignored the offensive linemen in the fourth round, selecting only five more.

Good thing practice squads were expended from five to eight, because the NFL treated the offensive line class of 2004 like practice squaders. Nineteen of the 26 tackles went in the second day -- a dozen in the sixth and seventh rounds alone. Seven of the nine centers went on Day 2. Only eight guards were drafted in the entire seven rounds...

...There may not be more than eight to 10 legitimate first-year starters from this group of linemen. It's not that they won't develop. Most of the tackles were 6-7 or 6-6. All were in the 300-pound plus range. But the NFL is for now, and these linemen were drafted for the future.

It's only been a day now, and I'm already sick of reading and hearing how the Browns drafted their "QB of the future" in Luke McCown from Louisiana Tech. Now, he just might turn out to be that, but right now it's about as certain as saying that Adimchinobe Echemandu is the Browns running back of the future. I'll just remind some people that we drafted a QB from Bowling Green named Mark Miller in the 3rd round a few years back, and today he's barely an asterisk in the record books. (Okay, it was more than a few years back...1978)

Getting Winslow and a solid safety in this draft could make it a success even if the other four guys flop. Of the rest of the picks, it seems like Echemandu has the best "sleeper" potential, and you've got to like the trend of taking guys from Stanford and Cal. Brains can't hurt.

Posted by dan at April 26, 2004 8:40 PM